by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.April 27, 2011 4:10 pm UTC No Comments
Richmond is also the home track of Denny Hamlin, who will host his Short Track Showdown at the track for the first time on Thursday night. After a few years at the since-closed Southside Speedway, Hamlin will bring his own late model charity event to a much bigger stage, even attracting a SPEED Channel broadcast. Maybe it’ll be some good karma for the struggling Hamlin, who currently sits 17th in points after nearly winning it all last year.
I don’t have Hamlin on my short list of fantasy picks this week, though – not as my favorite, my alternate, or my dark horse. So, who am I picking over the guy who’s won two of the last three at Richmond?
Kyle Busch: The two-time race defending champion, of course. Last year, Rowdy dominated by leading 226 of 400 laps, including the first 140, and getting by Jeff Gordon for the final five circuits to cement his first victory of the season. Through two short track races this year, he’s been the top driver as well, scoring a series-best 90 points and leading 304 of 1000 laps. If he’s not your guy, he should be.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The momentum’s there. The will to win, if it was ever gone, is back. The last time Junior saw a short track (at Martinsville) he led as late as lap 496 of 500 and finished second. The turnaround within the No. 88 shop (or, technically, the consistently high level of performance in the former No. 24 shop) has the sport’s most popular driver contending for wins every weekend now, but he still has to break through. This could be the weekend.
Marcos Ambrose: Don’t ask me why, I just have a hunch. Well, a hunch influenced by a solid average finish of 11.8 in four Richmond starts, including runs of ninth (spring) and fifth (fall) last year. Richard Petty Motorsports has an issue with inconsistency, as it seems Ambrose will only run well when A.J. Allmendinger doesn’t, and vice versa. If you buy into that coincidence as theory, then Allmendinger’s 11th-place run two weeks ago at Talladega, combined with Ambrose’s crash-influenced 32nd-place finish, should mean Ambrose will run well on Saturday.